Has science ruled out the existence of the soul? Rabbi Adam Jacobs says no.
In this discussion, many modern scientific thinkers have taken position that consciousness is an illusory faculty created by our neuronal activity. According to this position, our subjective self-awareness is wholly imagined fantasy that has no objective existence:
“Despite our every instinct to the contrary, there is one thing that consciousness is not; some deep entity inside the brain that corresponds to the “self”, some kernel of awareness that runs the show … after more than a century of looking for it brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for such a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply doesn’t exist.”(Journalist Michael Leminick, Time Magazine)
“We feel, most of the time, like we are riding around inside our bodies, as though we are an inner subject that can utilize the body as a kind of object. This last representation is an illusion … “ (Atheist author Sam Harris)
“The intuitive feeling that we have that there’s an executive “I” that sits in the control room of our brain … is an illusion.” (Dr. Steven Pinker)
These thinkers all readily acknowledge that our actual experience of reality seems to fly in the face of their description of it — hence Professor Dennett’s “problem of consciousness.” One would think that in order to draw conclusions about the true nature of this problem they would rely on carefully researched evidence and hard facts before informing us that every experience that we have (or will ever have) — from love and morality to the appreciation of beauty and free will — are fictitious. Here are some examples of what the world of science does actually offer on this topic:
“Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.” (Dr. Jerry Fodor, Professor of philosophy and cognitive science)
“The problem of consciousness tends to embarrass biologists. Taking it to be an aspect of living things, they feel they should know about it and be able to tell physicists about it, whereas they have nothing relevant to say.” (Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize winning biologist)
“Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all.” (Dr. Nick Herbert, Physicist)
In my thinking, I have moved from dualism (separate soul), to monism in the form of non-reductive physicalism (embodied soul), to no soul, and now to I don’t know-ism. I gravitate to materialistic explanations, but I am finding myself at odds with the non-reductive physicalism supported by Nancey Murphy and others even though it is scientifically informed yet still congruent with Christianity.
What are others’ thoughts? Where in the monism-dualism spectrum have you anchored down? Why did you land there?